I’m a planner. Literally. My undergraduate degree was in Recreation, Parks & Tourism with a concentration in Event Planning. I enjoy planning things. In fact, one of my “hobbies” is planning vacations that I’ll (probably) never go on.
The older I get, the more I bump up against this problem with planning: oftentimes, my plans don’t coincide with God’s plan. And it’s frustrating, and, at times, painful.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
When God Had Different Plans for Me
At the beginning of 2013, I started to have debilitating pain in my joints. At the time, I was a riding instructor at a local horse farm. I would get home from teaching lessons at the end of the day and literally crawl up the stairs to our apartment because I was in so much pain. I started to see an orthopedic doctor and then a sports medicine doctor, and when neither helped, I went to a rheumatologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist… the list goes on. I got a knee brace, shoe insoles, a plethora of medications and side effects, and a myriad of injections in my joints. Instead of getting better, the pain only got worse.
With every new doctor, I would hope that this would be THE ONE. This would be the doctor who would know what was wrong with me. This would be the therapy to finally “fix” me. This medication would make it all go away. But it didn’t. I found the truth in this verse: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Three years into my journey with pain, I was consistently walking with a cane and taking several medications daily just to function. The pain kept me up at night—I spent a lot of nights crying on the bathroom floor, praying to God, feeling so alone and defeated. I was unable to work, barely able to go to church. There were days when I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help from my husband. This obviously wasn’t part of my plans.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The Greek term for faithfulness used in our key verse is “pistis” which conveys faith, belief, trust and confidence. This is the same word used when Jesus says things like, “Your faith (pistis) has healed you,” (Mark 5:34, 10:52) and in Mark 4:40, “Why are so afraid? Do you still have no faith (pistis)?” It is the same term used all throughout the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
With everything going on in our world right now, it’s hard to be faithful. It’s easy to doubt what God is doing with this pandemic or in the various hardships he’s sending our way. Despite these storms, it is possible to have full faith in God – and not just blind, oblivious belief.
This week, for our Fruit of the Spirit series, we’re focusing on kindness and goodness. These terms strike me as nice, fluffy Christian words that depict a demure, smiling woman who writes a check for her local charity and doesn’t honk when someone cuts her off. But kindness and goodness are so much more than that – and, I believe there is an alarming shortage of true kindness in the world right now.
Before this pandemic, on Sunday evenings, I would meal plan for the week and put together my grocery order for the following day. With all of the craziness going on, meal planning and grocery shopping have been a nightmare. Who knew eggs, chicken thighs and toilet paper would be such a necessity in a pandemic?! We’ve been scouring every single grocery store within a 30-mile radius for these items. As soon as we find out that boneless skinless chicken thighs are available at the Costco across town, we’re in there like Delta Force trying to get what we need. (Because Heaven forbid we have to cook with chicken breasts instead!)
My reaction to this minor inconvenience made me consider what’s really important right now. What shortages does God care about? What deficits would get His attention?
I think God is looking down at our world and it hurts His heart that we have such a shortage of true kindness. Our goodness is apparently so rare that whenever someone does something exceptionally kind, it goes viral!
The good news is that as Christians, we can do something about that. Especially during such a turbulent time in our world, we can stand out and reflect these traits of God to the world on a daily basis.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
This week’s fruit of the Spirit is patience. I gotta tell you that whenever I write a devotional, it seems like whatever I’m writing about becomes the battle for that week. I’m doing pretty well with keeping my anxiety in check until I write about peace. Or I’m feeling incredibly joyful…until I write about joy. And this week was no different with patience. I really had to battle this one out on multiple fronts.
Everything I write on this blog, I’m writing it to myself. This is an outlet of teaching and preaching to myself. It’s wonderful, and incredibly challenging. Just a reminder that we’re in this together, mamas.
I know we’re all probably going a little stir-crazy with the whole world on lockdown during this COVID pandemic, and I think it’s safe to say we could all use a little more patience. (And peace. Read more about peace here.)
The next fruit of the Spirit in our series is peace. This is a pretty crazy time to discuss peace. At the time that I write this, the Coronavirus is closing in on half a million confirmed cases. Countries are closing their borders and several U.S. Cities and states have issued stay-at-home orders. We can make jokes about Quarantinis all day, but this is a terrifying situation.
So, how should we, as Christians, respond?
In my opinion: with preparation, prayer, and peace. I’ve already written about how we should prepare for disaster, so I won’t go in to it here.
One of the most important things we can be doing right now is praying. If you head to my Instagram, I’m doing a series of daily prayers for this pandemic. Please join me as I pray for our world in crisis.
Lastly, we should be at peace. We’ll get into the how later, but let’s talk about what peace is first.
When I was a sophomore in college, my family went on a 10-day Caribbean cruise over the Christmas holiday. On the last night of the cruise, our ship encountered the outer bands of a tropical storm. I woke up in the middle of the night to the ship rocking so hard I thought it would rock me right out of bed.
We had recently watched the movie Poseidon – where a cruise ship capsizes – and in my pitch black cabin, armed with those images of the flipped ship, I was terrified. I crossed the hallway to my parents’ cabin and jumped into their bed. From their porthole, we watched the massive waves crashing against our ship. Over ten years later, I still remember that sight.
With COVID-19 declared a pandemic, cases sweeping the nation, and schools, businesses and even our local churches on lockdown, I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a little tense. I find it interesting that in the midst of all of this, the next fruit of the Spirit in this series is joy. That seems like the farthest thing from my mind right now.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
To be honest, at first I was offended. Defensive. Of course I’d lost my joy! I was in pain every single day.
My friends and peers were moving on with their lives: advancing in their careers, going on adventurous vacations, exploring the latest fitness craze. I was 25 years old and walking with a cane. I could hardly adventure to my bathroom, let alone outside.
The thing about her statement, though, is that it was true. I had lost my joy. My focus had become on my physical circumstances instead of my eternal status. Sound familiar?
With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading across the world and with cases now in the U.S., according to the CDC we are on the verge of a pandemic. This has forced me to consider: how should I respond to a potential disaster? How should my family handle this “impending doom?” As Christians, how should we approach trials and hardships?
I’m not pretending to know all of the answers here. I’m simply sharing what I’m trying to implement in my own life as I walk with God in this potential season of a pandemic.